Frugal Foreigner Gets Around: Transportation in Bangalore

If you’re new to my posts, read all about it here! You can read all previous posts in the series here.

This may be a good time to point out that if you’d ever like to enlarge a picture on the Mommysavers blog, just click on it!

This is us not using seatbelts.

My kids’ first experience riding in a car with no car seats was in New York City on our way to . We had a 10 hour layover, and we took a cab to my brother’s apartment in Queens. Maggie threw up. Luckily, it’s gotten better. Finally. Here’s an overview of transportation in , and all about how we get around safely.

There are 6 main ways of getting around in Bangalore.

1. Walking. Cheapest, obviously, and everyone does a lot of it. The sidewalks here are terrible. I can use the stroller for about 2 blocks in our (nice) neighborhood, but nowhere else. Also, the sidewalk is over the sewer, so if the cement is broken… well, don’t fall in. People just walk in the street, right alongside the traffic. In many neighborhoods there are few if any stoplights, and there are NO stop signs. If you need to cross, you just start crossing.

2. Bicycle. I’ve seen bicycles pulling huge loads, or riding down the road with the other traffic. While there are motorcycle helmet laws (see below), I’ve never seen a bike helmet.

3. Bus. The bus is very cheap, I think about 15 cents for a ride. I’ve never taken it and I hope I never will.

This is a good example of the road conditions in India. Traffic stops for this railroad crossing. Also, you can see how dirty it is. Though, to be fair, this is a construction zone. That is a metro rail being built.

4. Auto rickshaw. An auto rickshaw is a small, three wheeled car that you hire like a taxi. They have meters, and they are legally required to use them, though it’s less hassle to bargain for your price than to talk an auto driver into using the meter. These rides are cheap (if the meter were used, it’d be around a dollar for 5 kilometers) and the rickshaws are amazingly maneuverable, a big plus in the heavy traffic. It can be a bit of a dusty ride. Notice the traffic cop with a mask on, above. And of course, you just hold your kids, or sit them on the seat next to you. Luckily, the right side is usually barred off. (Driver on the right, driving on the left side of the road, here). Using our driver (see below) is preferable, but I don’t mind using the rickshaws. Our biggest problem is finding a driver who understands where we want to go – and will take us for the price we’re willing to pay.

5. Motorcycle/Scooter. The law here is that the driver of a motorcycle is required to wear a helmet. However, there’s no provision for women (riding side-saddle if in a sari), children, business partners, packages, or livestock hanging off the back.  There are a LOT of motorcycles here.  It’s a great way to get around in the heavy traffic, unless you have a lot of kids (which may explain why no one does).

6. Private Car. You could, theoretically, own your own car and drive it yourself. But most people use drivers. We have a car and driver provided to us by my husband’s employer. This has been one of the biggest adjustments for me. I have no problem with someone else doing the driving (see Traffic Rules below). But I basically have my own employee. This man is paid to drive me around and sit in the car waiting for me all day. It was a little awkward at first and took some getting used to.

When we first got our car, it didn’t even have seat belts. I had to dig them out of the trunk. As previously mentioned, Dalton is a crazy kid. He likes to climb around and get on everything. You can imagine the difficulty of dealing with both kids by myself in the backseat of the car with no car seats. I finally learned that putting him on the floor of the car with some books was the best way to keep him from flying around.

We do, at this point, have car seats for the kids. They are basically unheard of in India.  I install Dalton’s for trips over 1 kilometer (we drive around the block to eat lunch with my husband daily). Since I have to shop at several different stores, it’s nice not to have to do and undo 3 sets of buckles when driving half a block. The driver takes Dalton’s seat out to pick John up from work. I guess the man-of-the-house needs the whole backseat for himself. I think it’s some level of professionalism that goes along with opening the car door for me.

We’ve never used Maggie’s booster seat. She sits in the middle and uses the lap belt, if she uses anything at all. With Dalton buckled and Maggie on my lap, I don’t feel unsafe. The traffic here is so horrible, we’re never going fast, and the drivers are amazing.  Oh, another nice thing about the private car is the tinted windows.  Most of the pictures in this post were taken from safely behind my tinted windows.

Traffic Rules (or Lack Thereof). Amazing drivers here, remember? I don’t know how they do it. What would be a 4 way stop in the US is cars from all directions trying to go at once. Seriously! Lanes mean nothing. If four vehicles can be side by side in what would be two lanes, then they do. Scooters slither up to the front when waiting at a red light. And those omnipresent rickshaws can fit in tight spaces and move around very well. The traffic actually doesn’t bother me. Maybe because I don’t have to drive in it! I try to pay attention to where we’re going so I can find my way around, but it’s nice to relax and be on Indian time.

And finally, a couple other fun pictures from the road.

Here is the best picture I could get of the dump trucks. All the trucks are garishly decorated with flowers and remind me of the circus.
I think this is recycling.


  1. Tina says

    Fascinating! I run a business with Indian Americans and have learned so much about them & their culture, but don’t know much about life in India. It has been very informative & interesting.


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